SPOKANE, Wash. – Community organizer and Gonzaga student Rick Clark celebrated his 47th birthday at Second Harvest, when he showed up for what he thought would be a day of volunteering.
Instead, he was surprised by a crowd of family, friends and Delta Dental’s “surprise and delight” group, who honors people who give back to the community.
Delta Dental recognized Clark for his charity “Giving Backpacks,” which is in its third year of operation. The charity works to distribute backpacks filled with food, clothes and toiletries to the homeless.
Since the first year of operation in 2015, Clark has filled and distributed more than 2,000 backpacks.
Helping the homeless is very personal to Clark, who was living in his car just three years ago.
He has since gone back to school and even was accepted to Gonzaga University after his son encouraged him to apply.
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“Three years ago I was on my way back to go to community college after being a high school drop out for 28 years,” Clark said. “I met a homeless man the day I was going to sign up, and he had been robbed of his backpack the night before, so I said, if you can meet me back here tomorrow I'll fill that backpack for you.”
Clark said the homeless man was surprised by his generosity.
“He said, ‘Why would you do that?’ I said, ‘I don't want to see you like this.’ I went on Facebook and within 24 hours we filled 25 backpacks,” Clark said. “I realized that there were a lot more Jarods out there so we just started handing out backpacks and that was 21-hundred backpacks ago.”
On Thursday, Second Harvest wanted to give Clark a birthday gift that they knew he would love – two tickets to a Gonzaga basketball game next season.
Because Clark is a student, he can go to games already. But at 47 years old, Clark said squeezing into the student section can be a little awkward.
Clark said he’s looking forward to taking his son to a game in the fall.